How Does Global Warming Affect The Ocean

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How Does Global Warming Affect The Ocean – As climate change continues, its effects are being felt across the planet. The global ocean plays an important role and absorbs most of the carbon dioxide and excess heat generated by human activities. But he is also vulnerable. Some significant changes are underway and climate change seems to be getting worse in our oceans.

About 90% of the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is eventually absorbed by the world’s oceans. Because the oceans are so vast, changes in ocean temperature may seem small; The sea surface has warmed more than 0.5 degrees Celsius in the last century. This is still enough to cause significant disruption and warming is accelerating.

How Does Global Warming Affect The Ocean

How Does Global Warming Affect The Ocean

As things heat up, they expand, shrink, and take up more space. The ocean is no different. Between 1993 and 2010, warming is thought to have caused an average rise of 1.1 millimeters per year, accounting for the largest share of the total increase we’re seeing.

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In the year The total sea level rise between 1993 and 2010 averaged 3.2 mm per year, which is caused by a variety of sources, including water stored on land as ice. (Graphic: Manuel Bortoletti/Ocean China Dialogue)

Warm water affects the atmosphere above it. Warming sea surface temperatures are associated with stronger tropical storms and hurricanes, increasing the number of severe Category 4 or 5 hurricanes that make landfall on islands and coasts. Warmer water can dissolve less carbon dioxide, which means more of it stays in the atmosphere to accelerate global warming.

Like land, rising temperatures in the oceans can cause harmful heat waves. Unusual weather or water currents occur when water temperatures are above average for at least five consecutive days. However, they can last for months or even years. In the year From 2013 to 2015, a sea heat wave in the North Pacific called “The Blob” killed a million seabirds along the west coast of the United States.

When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it reacts to form carbonic acid, a weak acid but strong enough to alter the pH of seawater, which is naturally alkaline. Since the industrial revolution, dissolved carbon dioxide has been estimated to decrease the average pH of the upper oceans by 0.1 pH unit from 8.2 to 8.1 (7 is neutral).

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This change may not seem like much, but since pH is measured on a logarithmic scale, it actually represents a nearly 30% increase in acidity. This has some significant knock-on effects on ocean water chemistry and the ecosystems that depend on it.

Increased acidity is particularly bad news for shellfish and other marine life that use the mineral calcium carbonate to produce their shells and exoskeletons. More acidic water has a lower ability to retain this mineral, so calculative organisms such as mussels, clams, sea urchins, shallow-water corals, deep-sea corals, and calcium-rich plankton have a harder time absorbing it. Even worse, the chemical change promotes the dissolution of existing carbonate structures.

Coral is particularly vulnerable. Experiments on a small section of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have shown that artificially reducing carbon dioxide in seawater, returning pH to pre-industrial levels, increases coral calcification. 7% shouted. Then, as scientists increased carbon dioxide levels and lowered ocean pH to levels expected by the end of the century, calcification dropped by a third.

How Does Global Warming Affect The Ocean

Many scientists believe that as climate change continues, the huge glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will collapse and melt completely, eventually dumping enough water into the oceans. This takes time (hundreds maybe thousands of years) but the melting process is increasing rapidly. The UN Climate Agency predicts that under the low-emissions scenario, average sea level will rise between 61cm and 1.1m by the end of the century.

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In the year By 2050, rising sea levels could push at least 300 million people onto land, mostly in Asia.

Residents of the Sundarbans are trying to repair a damaged canal after seawater flooded nearby rice fields. This low plain is located on the border of India and Bangladesh. The region, home to about 4.5 million people, is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. (Image © Peter Caton / Greenpeace)

Coastal ecosystems are also affected. Coastal and wild areas experience more severe and frequent flooding and erosion, while freshwater habitats such as mudflats and marshes, used for breeding birds, are lost to seawater.

The sea ice formed by the freezing of ocean water each polar winter gradually melts and becomes thinner each summer. The melting of this ice does not contribute significantly to sea level, but it does cause great problems for the living organisms that live on this ice. After all, polar bears need sea ice to hunt seals, and studies show that many of the estimated 25,000 bears left in the Arctic are in trouble. Herds around the southern Beaufort Sea in northeastern Alaska and Canada declined by 40 percent between 2001 and 2010.

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Ocean currents are very sensitive to the effects of climate change. Nowadays, these ocean currents act like giant conveyor belts: winds push the atmosphere away from the warm equator and toward the colder poles, pulling the surface water. This water, cooled by the cold polar air, washes up and sinks to the depths of the ocean, where it is pushed up to the equator by the denser water above (it gradually warms, becoming liquefied). More and offers. . These cycles move round and round and mix the nutrients as they spin.

Snow melting inhibits this system. The large amount of fresh water flowing from the piers lowers the ocean’s water level and slows the rate of sinking. Without the same rate of decline, the entire global cycle could weaken. Scientists estimate that the current in the Atlantic Ocean decreased by 15% in 2018. And some studies think this could increase to more than 30% by 2100.

Based on past experience, scientists say that slow ocean currents can cause significant changes in the Earth’s atmosphere and thus create weather patterns. Winters in Europe can be very cold (this idea is brought to a head in the movie The Day After Tomorrow). Meanwhile, waters in the South Atlantic may warm, disrupting rainfall cycles important to crops in Asia and South America as sea surface temperatures affect winds and rainfall.

How Does Global Warming Affect The Ocean

Just as we breathe from the atmosphere, marine organisms depend on dissolved oxygen in seawater. But climate change is slowly depleting the oxygen in the oceans: between 1960 and 2010, 1-2% of the oxygen is thought to have been lost, and this could increase to 4% by 2100.

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There are several reasons. Warmer water can hold less gas, and disruptions in ocean currents limit the amount of oxygen that can be transported from the surface to the depths.

It’s a growing problem when fertilizers and other nutrients added to agricultural soils enter rivers and eventually beaches. Aided by a sudden supply of food, algae rapidly grow and multiply to form giant floating blooms, sometimes called green (or red) tides. These problems can cause, for example, the release of chemicals that are toxic to fish. As the algae die and sink, the bacteria work to break down the blooms, taking oxygen from the surrounding water.

Gdansk beach in northern Poland was closed to tourists in the summer of 2018 due to toxic algae blooms (Photo: Wojciech Strzyk/Alami)

Under extreme conditions, dissolved oxygen levels can be so low that parts of the deep ocean can become barren. In the year A 2008 international study found at least 405 such dead zones. The number in the 1960s was 49. Perhaps the worst affected was the Baltic Sea. The Baltic region has a large dead zone covering 70,000 square kilometers (about the size of Ireland), despite efforts to limit agricultural flows from neighboring countries.

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Already under pressure from overfishing and pollution, marine life, from large fish to cyanobacteria, will also be affected by climate change. As ocean water temperatures and ocean currents change, some marine life may migrate to colder waters, such as the poles. These changes in distribution have knock-on effects on the species that eat them, from people trying to catch tuna to fish that seek out zooplankton. Species stressed by resource shifts, acidification and hypoxia are particularly vulnerable.

Predicting changes in complex and interconnected food web systems is difficult. Fishing activity in some areas may increase as important new species enter the nets. But in general, the result can be bad. According to a study conducted last year, warm water Since the 1930s, it has reduced the total amount of fish that can be caught sustainably, the worst being the Sea of ​​Japan.

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